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Signs and Wonders

By David Robinson/ October 8, 2017

Series  Daniel: Wisdom in Exile

Context  Westminster Chapel Toronto

Topic  Lordship

Scripture  Daniel 4:1-37

The whole purpose of Nebuchadnezzar's dream was to show that God is sovereign over all things and that Nebuchadnezzar has his power and rule because of God.

Sermon Notes:

  1. King Nebuchadnezzar, not Daniel, is speaking in this chapter. It's a declaration he gave to all peoples and nations of what God had done to him, which he describes as signs and wonders.
  2. The visual content of the dream – trees, watchers, holy ones – may be distracting. The main point is that signs point to something. We need to be directed toward the object of the signs.
  3. The main point is repeated throughout: that God's kingdom is everlasting and His dominion endures from generation to generation. The king declares that God rules the kingdoms of men (vv. 3, 17, 25, 34-37).
  4. As we consider Nebuchadnezzar’s testimony we will focus on his experience of being humbled and restored.
  5. Nebuchadnezzar had already had multiple opportunities to repent and convert to the one true God of Israel, and declared there is no god like Daniel’s God (cf. Dan. 2:47; 3:28-29).
  6. However, spiritual laziness crept in. Amidst ease and prosperity he forgot about Daniel and the God of Israel (v. 4).
  7. The way he reports it, he knew that the dream represented Babylon at that moment, prosperous and at ease (v. 10-17).
  8. At the end of the dream there is no apocalyptic imagery, Nebuchadnezzar is told directly the significance of the dream, that God rules and is the one who appoints and lifts up kings. He is alarmed because he knows the meaning.
  9. Nebuchadnezzar calls on all the wise men and enchanters to put a positive spin on his dream. They have no answer, not because they can’t see the meaning, but because they don't want to be bearers of bad news.
  10. Nebuchadnezzar had convinced himself everything in Babylon was wonderful, but the glory of his kingdom was superficial. There is injustice and suffering. Daniel reminds him not to think too highly of his kingdom as a tree of blessing.
  11. There is a warning to us in this passage not to be preoccupied with making a name for ourselves. We are reminded that the perspective of heaven sees us as we really are.
  12. God gives Nebuchadnezzar twelve months to repent, but he continues in his ease and presumes on the kindness of God.
  13. Historians still talk about the glory and splendour of Babylon, but Nebuchadnezzar refused to acknowledge that his power and planning ability was a gift from God, and so the Giver revoked the gift.
  14. God’s decree is judgment, but it's also an act of mercy toward Nebuchadnezzar. He is humiliated for just the right amount of time (Seven is the biblical number of perfection. cf. vv. 16, 23, 25, 32). God doesn't abandon him to his pride, but brings him to a place of repentance. 
  15. There is an echo here of the prodigal son, living among the beasts, who then comes to his senses (Luke 15:17). 
  16. Nebuchadnezzar models true repentance: he lifted his eyes towards heaven; his reason returned; and he worshipped the one true God. 
  17. In lifting his eyes he comes to a right knowledge of himself and his lowly position before God. Humble people have their head towards heaven, away from themselves. They aren't obsessed with their own weakness and sins.  
  18. Having done this, his reason returns to him. His humanity is restored. Someone with their eyes turned towards heaven is rational. Pride is insane. With his eyes toward heaven Nebuchadnezzar is fit to rule.
  19. Daniel also models a faithful witness for us. He declares the word to the king in compassion, candour, and counsel. When he hears of the dream, he is at first dismayed and alarmed. Such a reaction demonstrates Daniel’s compassion towards Nebuchadnezzar.
  20. Second, Daniel is candid. Unlike the magicians who deny what they can clearly see, he gives the interpretation directly. Daniel models something here for our Christian witness in the world today (cf. John 3:16-21).
  21. The church today often shies away from counselling repentance to those who don't know Christ, but this is a necessary part of the gospel message.
  22. Nebuchadnezzar concludes his account by marvelling at God's sovereign grace. God is the one who rules and raises kings and humbles the proud. 
  23. As we try to make sense of the strangeness and sorrow of the world around us, it's helpful for us to know that things are not ruled by chance, but to remember that not even a sparrow falls apart from the Father.
  24. The communion meal we have declares the death of Christ until He comes. It signifies the fact that while we were proud, He humbled himself. And as we come to the table we lift up our eyes. And we repent. And we come confident knowing Christ who was torn for us is here.

Application Questions:

  1. Have we reached a point in our lives where we are tempted to forget that all things are a gift from God?
  2. If ease and prosperity are God’s good gifts to us, what does that mean for how we are to use them?
  3. Do we try to play up our abilities and achievements, rather than rejoicing in God’s favour?
  4. Do we try to put a positive spin on things that make us look bad?